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Prostitution Legal in Rhode Island:

The Spitzer matter reminded me of this factoid, and a How Appealing item pointed me to a news story that explains it:

"A lot of people don't realize that prostitution is legal in Rhode Island if you do it indoors," State Police Inspector Stephen Bannon testified. In an accompanying letter, State Police Supt. Col. Brendan P. Doherty noted that under current law, "persons are free to solicit sex for money in newspapers and/or over the Internet as long as the conduct that is agreed upon takes place in private."

The Rhode Island legislature is now considering "clos[ing] the loophole," but I'm not sure it's quite a "loophole": The relevant statutes prohibit operating a bordello, pimping, or loitering with the purpose of prostitution, but they simply don't prohibit prostitution itself.

Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
So all Spitzer had to do was use the Providence Craigslist?
3.13.2008 2:32pm
Fub:
Although I am neither Canadian or expert in their laws, I have heard that is very close to their legal regime as well.

Perhaps some Canadian readers can provide more information, eh?

But maybe Spitzer would be even worse off had he transferred money out of the USA.
3.13.2008 2:40pm
Waldensian (mail):
This is the greatest country on earth. Al Queda has no chance. None.
3.13.2008 3:07pm
TomHynes (mail):
Spitzer would be okay using the Providence Craig's list. However, if he uses the Manhattan Craig's list and has the girl meet him indoors in Providence, he commits a federal felony. (Mann Act). Buy local.
3.13.2008 3:21pm
Orielbean (mail):
He still laundered the money, which is its own kettle of fish.
3.13.2008 3:23pm
KeithK (mail):
However, if he uses the Manhattan Craig's list and has the girl meet him indoors in Providence, he commits a federal felony. (Mann Act).

Completely aside from whether or not prostitution should be legal, it's absurd that there is a federal crime of prostitution.
3.13.2008 3:35pm
BA:
I had previously come across this claim on Wikipedia, but I never believed it. I just thought that I was being collaterally misinformed.
3.13.2008 3:37pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
This is very much the law in the UK--excepting a few cities like Edinburgh and Manchester which are experimenting with licensed brothels. Sex can be sold if it is done in private, without madames/pimps, or in a 'bawdy house', i.e. more than one sex worker operating out of the same premises. If you want to rent your body out of your own home, through word of mouth or other low-impact advertising, then that's up to you.

Police will even respond and assist with problems like theft or aggression on the part of 'punters'.
3.13.2008 3:54pm
Matty G:

Completely aside from whether or not prostitution should be legal, it's absurd that there is a federal crime of prostitution.


I disagree, at least in part. The states are not in position to handle trafficking of sex slaves across state lines, and definitely not in position to handle it when the line is a U.S. international border. The feds are. To the degree this needs to be enforced by a general law all the way down to prosecuting johns who pay for train tickets, I don't know. But the underlying law certainly serves a purpose.
3.13.2008 4:33pm
x (mail):
IANAL but I think both Keith and Tom are a bit off the mark. By my reading of this description of the Mann act provisions as currently amended, it's not a Federal ban on prostitution (sex for money). The Federal offense is transport to another state for the purpose of performing a sexual act that would be a crime in that jurisdiction. So meeting up via Manhattan Craigslist and consumating the act in Providence doesn't appear to trigger the Mann act, since no RI laws have been broken. I'm assuming that breaking NY laws against solicitation (if internet solicitation isn't allowed) wouldn't trigger the Mann act.
3.13.2008 4:35pm
elscorcho (mail):
Crossing state lines to engage in prostitutions falls under regulation of interstate trade much better than growing pot for your own use or a number activities that are regulated via federal statute.
3.13.2008 4:36pm
lucia (mail) (www):
...as long as the conduct that is agreed upon takes place in private."



So is public sex legal provided it's not paid for? Or is all public sex prohibited?

Just askin'.
3.13.2008 4:41pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Fub,

It is true that prostitution is legal in Canada. Communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution is illegal. This is intended to ban street-walking. It is also illegal to operate a "bawdy house" and to procure and live off the income of prostitution. The net effect is that outcall service by independent operators is legal. They must advertise by means not considered "public". What this means is that the reader must choose to see the advertisement. Thus, classified ads in newspapers and ads on websites are legal, whereas a billboard or a TV or radio ad would be illegal.
3.13.2008 5:14pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I disagree, at least in part. The states are not in position to handle trafficking of sex slaves across state lines, and definitely not in position to handle it when the line is a U.S. international border. The feds are. To the degree this needs to be enforced by a general law all the way down to prosecuting johns who pay for train tickets, I don't know. But the underlying law certainly serves a purpose."

Do the feds have the means to handle trafficking in textile slaves? Dishwasher slaves? Maid slaves? Factory slaves? Attorney slaves? What is the underlying law they use? Seems the same could be used for sex slaves.
3.13.2008 6:02pm
notalawyer:
I'm no fan of prostitution and have nothing useful to say about the main question, but let me rant for a moment about the term "loophole." As I see it, "closing a loophole" means making illegal something the law now allows because I don't like it.
3.13.2008 6:03pm
KeithK (mail):
Elliot123 has it right. The issue that Matty raises is essentially slavery, holding someone against their will. This may be done more frequently (or mostly) for the sake of prostitution but that's just details.

There's a long standing trend of making everything a federal crime. I consider this a big problem.
3.13.2008 6:08pm
Fub:
Bill Poser wrote at 3.13.2008 4:14pm:
It is true that prostitution is legal in Canada.
[details elided]
Thanks for the information. I've often heard that it was, but without general legal details.
3.13.2008 6:59pm
Cold Warrior:
For the Rhode Islanders out there: if there is a push to "close the loophole," what is the public policy purpose behind doing so?

I have never heard the RI is some kind of great exception to the prostitution laws of the USA, so I have to assume that this is a solution in search of a problem ...
3.13.2008 7:04pm
bloggger:
If the Mann Act is still on the books, no wonder Arabs laugh at us.

Don't Bushies have better things to do? Dollar hits the bottom, gas is sky high, and so on, and so on.

And they do what? Chase
3.13.2008 7:07pm
Pizza Snob:
Isn't any activity that occurs over the internet per se interstate commerce and thus subject to the same laws that ultimately sank Spitzer? This has been the rationale behind a number of child pornography convictions.
3.13.2008 7:33pm
whit:
"For the Rhode Islanders out there: if there is a push to "close the loophole," what is the public policy purpose behind doing so? "

i used ot live in rhode island and still have family there.

there's no push. simply put, it's not a problem. maybe with craigslit and the like, it's picked up, but it simply hasn't created much public opinion - for or against.

let's not forget that this is RHODE ISLAND which is renowned for "weird law" as dershowitz figured out when he took on the von bulow case.

if it hasn't created a problem in RI, why fix something that ISN'T broken. if there are some lasses (and maybe even some guys) who are making some extra cash prostituting themselves - more power to them.
3.13.2008 8:55pm
Steve2:
Is there a push anywhere to legalize prostitution?
3.13.2008 8:56pm
George Weiss (mail) (www):
TomHynes:

not sure thats true-the mann act only kicks in if the conduit for which you bring the person over state lines is illegal.
3.13.2008 9:00pm
teqjack (mail):
It is a "loophole" as long as multiple sex-workers are not available in the same location (or via the same person/organization, eg pimping is illegal), but so what? I really feel that the law[s] should be about trafficing in quantity and/or by force, not an individual's [possibly stupid] behavior. Might be some difficulty with that "quantity" thing I put in there, as Nevada can easily show that not all are under any but financial compulsion, as in "I can't earn this waitressing at a burger joint."

And no, there has been no push to "close" it, beyond the maybe two days it was in the local papers.
3.13.2008 9:23pm
BGates:
If the Mann Act is still on the books, no wonder Arabs laugh at us.

I was talking to this group of Arabs, and I said, "What's the matter with you guys? You keep talking about living in the 'Cradle of Civilization', but vast numbers of your people can't read. You treat women abominably. You blame any problem in your lives on Israel, a tiny country that treats its Arab citizens better than your governments treats theirs (never mind how your governments treated the Jews who used to live there.) You've done nothing productive with the vast amounts of oil money that's come into your countries, and you wouldn't even have that except people from other nations discovered it and invented uses for it and ways to extract it. And you glorify people who murder anyone from foreign military to Arab civilians in the name of religion. What do you have to say for yourselves?"

There was silence for a moment, and then one of the guys said, "Well, at least we don't have a federal statute prohibiting the interstate transport of females for immoral purposes!" And they all started laughing.

True story.
3.13.2008 11:08pm
Can't find a good name:
What about Rhode Island's Section 11-34-5.1?


Any person, knowing a person to be a prostitute, who shall live or derive support or maintenance, in whole or in part, from the earnings or proceeds of prostitution ... shall be punished by imprisonment in the adult correctional institutions for not less than one year nor more than five (5) years ....


While the intent of this statute was probably to prohibit people from living off of other people's earnings from prostitution, I don't see how it couldn't be applied against the prostitutes themselves. After all, all prostitutes know that they themselves are prostitutes and they derive at least part of their support or maintenance from their earnings or proceeds of prostitution.
3.14.2008 4:45am
shawn-non-anonymous:
Prostitution is also legal in the state of Nevada provided it takes place in a licenses brothel in a county with fewer than 300,000 residents. (I could have the 300K slightly wrong but the gist of it is correct.) Only two counties had populations of this size: Washoe (Reno) and Clark (Vegas). I think Carson City had exempted itself as well as it is the capital.

So basically, brothels are legal in all the rural spaces in Nevada and seem to pile up on the borders of populated counties. The prostitutes require a Sheriff's card, just like c@sino workers do, and they must submit to medical checks on a frequent basis.

I think it is a mistake to characterize prostitutes as powerless in their chosen business. Regardless of the circumstances that drive men and women to prostitution, most appear to be more entrepreneurs rather than "slaves".
3.14.2008 10:51am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I disagree, at least in part. The states are not in position to handle trafficking of sex slaves across state lines, and definitely not in position to handle it when the line is a U.S. international border. The feds are. To the degree this needs to be enforced by a general law all the way down to prosecuting johns who pay for train tickets, I don't know. But the underlying law certainly serves a purpose.
Why aren't states in a position to handle trafficking of sex slaves across state lines? The crime is kidnapping and/or slavery, right? Doesn't the crime take place within a state? Within each state? Both states can prosecute.

As for international lines, if the person is taken out of the country, then the federal government might help, but assuming the woman is taken into the country, again, why can't the state prosecute for the crimes committed in the state in question?
3.14.2008 12:13pm
whit:
"What about Rhode Island's Section 11-34-5.1?



Any person, knowing a person to be a prostitute, who shall live or derive support or maintenance, in whole or in part, from the earnings or proceeds of prostitution ... shall be punished by imprisonment in the adult correctional institutions for not less than one year nor more than five (5) years "

what about, that clearly covers pimping,not prostitution, which we know (the former) *is* illegal in RI.

although.

it SHOULD read "any person, knowing ANOTHER person, ..."

that's why lawyers shouldn't write laws :)

one would assume it means OTHER person, but it needs to state it more clearly.
3.14.2008 12:41pm
whit:
edit: should read...

"what about IT?"
3.14.2008 12:42pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
What's the housing market like in RI?

Kidding.
3.14.2008 2:12pm